Playing in the World University Games could not come at a better time for the Clemson men’s basketball team. The Tigers have to replace four seniors from last year’s squad.
Those four seniors—Shelton Mitchell, Marcquise Reed, Elijah Thomas and David Skara—led Clemson to a record 45 wins the last two seasons, including two postseason runs. Included in that was the Tigers’ Sweet 16 season in 2018.
But it’s time for the Tigers to move on without them and the World University Games will give them a nice jump start on the future. Clemson will represent the United States and will be competing in Pool C of the World University Games from July 3-14 in Naples, Italy.
“It is really a tremendous opportunity for us,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said to The Clemson Insider. “With the World University Games, we get to have a lot more practice. We certainly don’t have all of our freshman on campus or all of our transfers on campus yet either, but we do have our returning players, so we have a few guys here.”
Because the Tigers are playing in an International Tournament, they can prepare from International rules and not by NCAA guidelines.
“There really are not that many restrictions. We can pretty much practice until we leave,” Brownell said.
Brownell says they will try to practice at least four or five days. Because of the extra practices, it will not be quite as difficult or demanding as it would be if they were starting the basketball season.
“We are going to work our way into it the next couple of weeks,” he said. “We are going to do a lot of skill work and we are going to work on some offensive stuff, and then as we kind of progress we will begin to add more things and work on some defensive schemes and things that we need to do to improve our team.”
This is not the first time Clemson has played overseas. The Tigers have made two trips overseas before. In both instances, the extra practices proved to be very beneficial in building the team.
In 2013, they went to Italy and toured the country and played basketball games, which the NCAA allows a team to do once every four years. The following basketball season, Clemson posted a 23-13 record and advanced to the Final Four of the NIT.
Two years ago, the Tigers toured Spain and subsequently had one of the best seasons in the program’s history. Clemson posted a 25-10 mark in the 2017-’18 season. The Tigers finished tied for third in the ACC, advanced to the conference semifinals and then went to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
How will competing in the World University Games in Italy benefit this year’s squad? History dictates it will.
“I think it is a unique opportunity,” Brownell said. “Most times when you take a team overseas, you only get ten days of practice. So, certainly we are going to get much more than that and that is going to be one of the big benefits for this team.”